Shokoufeh Montazeri: “My mother and brother are under physical and psychological pressure for confessions”
Shokoufeh Montazeri, sister of journalist Omid Montazeri and daughter of Mahin Fahimi, a member of Mothers for Peace, who were both arrested over a month ago, recently spoke with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. Omid Montazeri and Mahin Fahimi were arrested following the third trial session of suspects arrested the day after Ashura in Tehran. Shokoufeh Montazeri says her brother and mother have not had access to lawyers. She says they are not members of any illegal group, and considering what her brother has stated in court, she is concerned that he might be under physical and psychological pressure.
Shokoufeh Montazeri told the Campaign: “On the night of 28 December 2009, security officers went to our home and arrested my mother and our relatives who were visiting. They asked Omid to turn himself in the following day. Omid did that. Over a month has passed since that day and during this time, my mother and brother have not been able to have visitors, nor to see their attorneys. They have only been allowed to call home twice for short telephone conversations. ISNA News Agency published a report about the trial of 16 Ashura Day suspects today; Omid is ‘Suspect Number Three.’ He was introduced as ‘O. M., an individual whose mother is a Mother of Peace and whose father was executed in 1987.’ This news was shocking, as Omid’s attorney was following up on his case and during this time, security forces and other related authorities kept saying that no cases were in progress and no charges had been made. They did not inform the attorneys that a trial was in progress and Omid has attended his trial without his attorney. This has also been reflected in the ISNA report. Even so, the attorney has continued to follow up yesterday and today.”
Regarding her brother’s charges, Shokourfeh Montazeri said: “Omid has not done anything wrong. He is a journalist and writes for different newspapers. All of these newspapers are legal inside Iran. He hasn’t done anything illegal, as he has said in his defense statements. He does not sound hopeful in those statements and I am concerned that in light of the fact that he was not allowed to have his lawyer present, he must be under physical and psychological pressure. The same thing is true about my mother. Her trial has not been held yet. I am sure that my mother and Omid have not done anything illegal for which they deserve to be put on trial. My mother is a Mother of Peace and if her activism against violence is a crime, the fault lies with the laws which would consider activism against violence a crime. I believe the same thing about Omid. Omid has not done anything illegal. If there are any charges against him, they may be fabricated. In the ISNA report, there are no specific charges. The news title says that in the third court session held to review charges against those arrested during Ashura, ‘O. M. was read his charges’. In other places there are references to Omid’s statements addressing some of the charges made against him. But it doesn’t specifically says what the charges are. One of the questions Judge Salavati asked Omid was, ‘did you participate in any gatherings on Ashura day and if so, were you accompanied by your friends?’ There are no clear charges.”
Shokoufeh Montazeri said that her brother has not been seen by anyone during his time in prison, adding: “One of the people who was arrested at our home was released, but he hasn’t seen Omid, either. Omid has not had any visits and has only called home twice. These contacts were very limited. No one has seen him. This is obviously very worrisome. With the knowledge I have of my brother, I know what he has been quoted to say in the court is not the literature he normally uses. Considering the fact that we have had no visual contact with Omid and we are not allowed to see him; and this indicates to us that his conditions are not normal.”
Regarding charges of “association with groups outside Iran,” she said: “I think there are some fabrications under way. The Minister of Information announced a few days ago that Mothers for Peace are in contact with The Organization of Iranian People’s Fedaian, Majority and Minority. Neither one of these organizations are armed guerrilla organizations any longer. There are no guerrillas anymore. I think these are all vague and baseless charges. Mothers for Peace is an organization that has been active against violence and its track record is clear. During the Gaza war it held protests to defend the children. It has campaigned against child executions (under 18 convicts), and its entire effort has been concentrated on promoting peace. My father was executed in 1987 and I can tell you that after my father’s execution, my family has had no contact with any group or organization and the charges are groundless.”
Ms. Montazeri added: “If Omid wrote anything in the papers, it was to criticize the economic and cultural policies of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s cabinet. I don’t think that is a crime. Omid has raised the same criticisms as people from reformist newspapers and organizations such as Mardom Salari Newspaper and Etemad-e-Melli Party have done in television debates with their opponents. The same thing is true of my mother. If fighting against violence is a crime, I don’t know where I can take my objections.”
Finally, referring to her mother’s conditions in prison, she said: “My mother has not been allowed to have visitors either, and her attorneys have not had access to her case file. She, too, has called home twice for very short periods of time, but I know her physical health is not in very good shape. Unfortunately, I believe she is under horrible pressure. This is very worrisome. They probably want my mother to confess to crimes she has not committed.”